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By Dr. Charles C. Abbott. 

Illustrated from photographs of natural flowers by Pitcher and Manda. 

In almost every portion of the United States we are pretty sure, whenever we 
chance to ramble where there are flowers in bloom, to find some one or more rep- 
resentatives of the family of plants known as lilies. 

They may be rather inconspicuous, but there is not one that is not pretty, even 
if you have to use a magnifying-glass to discover its attractions. Many a true lily 
seems insignificant when other flowers are growing near, and few people would 
suppose that our troublesome greenbrier belongs to the family, as also do the 
onion and asparagus. Even the poisonous hellebore can claim kinship. But 
enough of these commonplace plants and " poor relations " of our grand Turk's- 
cap, which makes a better showing in the fields than the rankest growth of wild 
roses. I have seen acres of low-lying meadows ruddy with the bloom of the Lilium 
superbum, and recall one instance where the stalk was eleven feet high and with 
several fully expanded blossoms. 

In nature there are about half a hundred true species of lily, and " all are con- 
fined to the northern hemisphere." They are pretty equally divided between 
Europe, Asia, and North America, with some from Africa. 

Doubtless a more thorough botanical knowledge of the remoter parts of the world 



The Beauty of the Lilies 

will bring many more to 
light. The typical forms, 
because of their beauty, 
very early attracted man's 
attention. Gerard figures 
in his " Herball " eight true 
species, together with some 
varieties, but the southern 
hemisphere has been in- 
vaded now by lilies under 
cultivation, and so the 
plant is practically a cos- 








mopolite ; for, as " garden escapes," 
they prove quite equal to holding their 
own against the rankest vegetation. 

The bloom of the large flowering 
lilies varies so that we may say there 
are three types of the blossom : trum- 
pet-shaped, an open form, or spread- 
ing, like the Lilium aura turn, and a 
modification of this, that hangs with 
the face of the flower downward — the 
so-called montagon type. 

It is to their gorgeous color, how- 


ever, as much as, if not 
more than, to their grace- 
ful form, that these flow- 
ers owe their universal 
attractiveness. Henry 
Ward Beecher has re- 
marked that a piece of 
color is as useful as a 
piece of bread, and ad- 
mitting this, it is not sur- 
prising that flowers have 
been cultivated for ages. 
In this instance, man's 
care, as in the case of 


The Beauty of the Lilies 



vegetable kingdom, nothing that ex- 
ceeds in magnificence some of the 
lilies originally grown in Japan, with 
their wealth of gold, ivory, and the 
blush of the glowing sunset. Thou- 
sands of flowers are more curiously 
constructed — intricate to a marvellous 
degree, as the orchids ; some have more 
pronounced shades of scarlet or crim- 
son ; but these are beautiful because 
of their general effect upon the land- 
scape, as parts of a complex whole, 
while the lily is a thing of beauty in 
itself. It is for this reason that, like 
the rose, it is pre-eminently popular. 

some food-plants, has not changed their 
nature so completely that the parent 
forms have been lost or can now no 
longer be recognized, as is true of our 
maize ; but advance has been effected 
in the line of nature's own efforts toward 
brilliant coloring, and the beauty of the 
lily has been increased by means of 
that curious experiment or practice, 

Certainly we can find, in the whole 




In color, as in size and 
form, lilies present a wide 
range. They may be pure 
white, yellow, orange, red 
or spotted. They meet all 
tastes ; therefore it may be 
said : Give me their taste 
in lilies, and I will tell you 
the fancies of individuals 
in other matters. In the 
heyday of youth, the brill- 
iant rosy and streaked and 
spotted blooms attract us ; 


The Beauty of the Lilies 

to those of more thoughtful and maturer years, the snow-white blossoms seem 

A word here as to lilies proper and the water-lilies. Many people think them 
members of one great group, but if our readers will look in Gray's "Botany," they 





will find the latter in the very beginning of the book and the lilies proper near the 
end of the list. 

It is one of the misfortunes of our language that many common names of our 
animals and plants are very often misleading. True lilies are not aquatic plants, 
and yet many of our native forms flourish best where the ground is always wet; but 
this is far from making them aquatic plants. At times, however, they are a feat- 
ure of flooded areas, and might mislead the uninformed in such matters. I have 
seen the water dotted with " dog-toothed violets" — true lilies — when only the 
blossoms nodded above the ripples of the temporary lake. Such a condition sug- 

The Beauty of the Lilies 



gests a relationship with the pond-lilies, the 
snowy blooms of which star the dark waters of 
many an inland pool, from June to October. 

It would be pleasing, if space permitted, 
to trace the history of lilies, both wild and 
cultivated, in literature. Homer has much to 
say of them, and, with the rose, they are never 
omitted from any considerable body of poetry. 
We find the lily, of course, in Shakespeare, and, 
it is needless to add, in Scripture ; so that it 

is not a matter of surprise that the 
name has been adopted, very appro- 
priately, as one of special merit for 
our daughters. It needs but little ref- 
erence to families to see how often 
there are Lilies and Roses among the 
gentler sex. 

While the " lilies of the field " men- 
tioned in Matthew vi. 28, were anem- 
ones, it does not alter the fact that 
Solomon was never arrayed in any 
garments, or surrounded by draper- 
ies, that were comparable to the gor- 
geous lilies ; flowers that in perfec- 



tion have everything to commend them. 
White lilies stand as symbols of in- 
nocence in folklore, and as such are es- 
pecially devoted to festivals of The Vir- 
gin. " In Italian art, a vase of lilies 
stands by the Virgin's side, with three 
flowers crowning their green stems. The 
flower is generally the large white lily of 
our gardens, the pure white petals sig- 
nifying her spotless body and the golden 
anthers within typifying her soul spark- 
line with divine light."